Bills get statement win over Atlanta

October 1, 2017
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Wow!!! I should probably just hit send right now and that one word would be enough to cover my opinion on the Buffalo Bills' upset victory over the defending NFC champions, but I get paid by the word.

As the late Jack Buck said when describing Kirk Gibson's home run against Oakland in the 1988 World Series, "I don't believe what I just saw." The Bills' win over Denver might have made you take notice, but this one means it's time to re-assess our expectations for the 2017 Bills. Throw 5-11 or 6-10 in season number one under new management out the window. The Bills just won what appeared to be the second or third toughest game on their schedule. Actually, the way New England has looked in the first month of the season, Atlanta might turn out to be the best team the Bills play this season.

I'm not making Super Bowl plans just yet. After all, the Falcons lost one of the best receivers in the game, Julio Jones, in the second quarter and played the second half without him and number two wideout, Mohamed Sanu. But the Bills are way ahead of where I thought they'd be at this point. My Twitter feed blew up as the game ended with ecstatic Bills fans celebrating. Of course I did say I'd buy everyone drinks, so that might have played a role.  

Usually as soon as the game ends, I start writing up my notes and prepare for our Bills Football Monday show but I was so excited about this win, I couldn't put any thoughts together. I just sat there thinking, "I can't believe they beat the Falcons in Atlanta." It took me a good hour to come down from the natural high.

Sean McDermott is wiping out all those painful defensive memories from the two-year Rex Ryan tenure at One Bills Drive. The offense isn't exactly humming, but its making enough plays to complement that much improved defense. 

The defense took advantage of those key Falcons injuries and held an offense that averaged 29 points-a-game to just 17. The Bills stopped Atlanta on seven of their 10 possessions, including the victory-sealing turnover on downs on Atlanta's final drive. Throw in three takeaways and a defensive touchdown and you have a unit that will now be talked about as one of the best in the league at this point.

Playing in Atlanta for the first time since his former team (Green Bay) was smoked by Matt Ryan and company in last year's NFC title game, Micah Hyde had a big day. One of the key offseason acquisitions for the Bills had a pair of interceptions and a touchdown-saving run stop. Jerry Hughes had a Jerry Hughes kind of day as he recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.

Thanks to that defense for the second straight week, the Bills were able to beat a quality opponent on a day when the offense wasn't great. The Bills totaled just 281 yards, but they did just enough and produced a HUGE 11-minute and 20-seconds drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters. The running game was better than it was against Carolina and Denver, but the Bills still averaged only 3.3 yards per-carry. The longest run of the day was eight yards. But in that critical long drive, they ran 14 times for 72 yards and produced a field goal.

Tyrod Taylor didn't have eye popping numbers, but made some key throws and I liked his aggressiveness. Taylor threw deep on each of the Bills' five drives in the first half. He didn't complete all of them, but it was nice to see the attack mentality. He made a couple of really sweet throws down field to Charles Clay, who was the star of the passing game.  Clay accounted for 112 of the Bills' 182 receiving yards.

We're going to need a nickname for Stephen Hauschka. We had "Money Man Dan" for Dan Carpenter. John Murphy has been going with "Hausch Money" on the broadcasts, and the Bills kicker was money for the second straight game. Hauschka connected on two fourth quarter field goals of 55 and 56-yards as part of a 3-for-3 day. The 56-yarder broke a 17-17 tie and the 55-yarder gave the Bills a little more breathing room. 

Who knows how this season will play out, but right now the Bills are the team getting breaks instead of the breaks going against them. They had a few in the win over Denver and in this game, a controversial call on a Matt Ryan fumble / Bills recovery for a touchdown went Buffalo's way. On Atlanta's final play, it looked like cornerback Tre'Davious White got away with a little tug on the jersey on the Falcons intended receiver. But hey, the Bills are way overdue to get some breaks.

I have to tell you, this winning thing is fun. I could get used to it.